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Marijuana party to state Supreme Court: New major party laws are unconstitutional


Marijuana party to state Supreme Court: New major party laws are unconstitutional

Apr 16, 2024 | 3:44 pm ET
By Michelle Griffith
Marijuana party to state Supreme Court: New major party laws are unconstitutional
The Minnesota Judicial Center. Photo courtesy of the Department of Administration.

The Legal Marijuana Now Party on Tuesday fought for its right to major party status before the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing the state’s election laws infringe on its First Amendment Rights.

The pot party argued its case after the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in February asked the state Supreme Court to yank the Legal Marijuana Now Party’s major party status, alleging the party hasn’t met the requirements enacted during the 2023 legislative session.

Major party status confers significant advantages over minor parties, especially ballot access, negating the need for the expensive and onerous process of collecting signatures to appear on the ballot. 

The DFL Party argues the Legal Marijuana Now Party did not hold local conventions or have executive committees for at least 45 counties or legislative districts, as the law requires. A party must also certify that it has met the major party requirements, and the Legal Marijuana Now Party told Secretary of State Steve Simon that it held its state convention, eight legislative district conventions and 67 legislative district or county conventions — all on the same day in June 2022 at an address in Bloomington and online via Zoom.

The DFL Party said in its petition to the Supreme Court that it was “practically and logistically impossible for 76 separate conventions to be held on one day.” The Legal Marijuana Now Party denies the DFL’s allegations and states it has met all the requirements.

“This case is not about whether residents of Minnesota can form a political party. It is not about whether Minnesota voters can vote for the candidate of their choosing, and it is not about whether the state of Minnesota can mandate the manner in which political parties conduct their internal affairs and select their candidates,” said David Zoll, attorney representing the DFL Party. 

Democrats have an interest in the Legal Marijuana Now Party losing major party status: They believe Republicans have recruited patsy candidates for the Legal Marijuana Now Party ticket, with the sole intent of siphoning votes from Democratic candidates, which they believe has been decisive in a handful of close legislative races.

Erick Kaardal, representing the Legal Marijuana Now Party, told the justices that the new election laws are burdensome and inhibit the party’s ability to exercise its First Amendment rights.

“The implications of your decision are very important, because the state Legislature is watching. Do we want more of these regulations?” Kaardal asked the justices. “Regulating the internal affairs of major political parties, minor political parties … because that’s where we’re going.”

Kaardal is a local lawyer with ties to various conservative causes who also tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In a written filing, Kaardal wrote that the DFL-majority Legislature targeted the Legal Marijuana Now Party when it drafted the new major party requirements.

The Supreme Court justices on Tuesday questioned all parties about the new major party requirements.

“It does strike me that the statutory scheme is awfully detailed and lawfully invasive. Am I right or wrong about that?” Associate Justice Barry Anderson asked Zoll.

Zoll said the law wasn’t burdensome and left room for a party to conduct business as it sees fit.

Associate Justices Margaret Chutich and Karl Procaccini recused themselves and were not present during the oral arguments. 

Prior to Tuesday’s oral arguments, the Supreme Court appointed a district judge to determine whether the Legal Marijuana Now Party met the requirements laid out in the new law. The judge recommended that the Supreme Court revoke major party status for the August primary and November general elections.

John Woodruff, an assistant attorney general representing the secretary of state’s office, asked the Supreme Court to rule on the case before May 15 to give election officials enough time to understand requirements for the primary and general elections.

As for marijuana: It’s now legal.